It’s beginning to look like the Arizona Coyotes and restricted free agent winger Tobias Rieder have reached an impasse in contract negotiations. Dhiren Mahiban reports that it is growing more and more likely that the young German forward will spend this next season playing in the KHL, rather than agreeing to a new contract with the Coyotes.
Rieder, who had 14 goals and 23 assists in 2015-16 while playing in all 82 games for Arizona, plays a very complete game at just 23 years old. His numbers are very similar to those of Vladislav Namestnikov (35 points in 80 games last season), a young forward who was just awarded a new contract by the Tampa Bay Lightning that pays him a little under $2MM per season, and the Coyotes would like to pay Rieder somewhere in that arena as well. However, Rieder believes he is worth significantly more, reportedly asking for $4MM per season. While Rieder is probably a better hockey player than Namestnikov right now, it seems as though the Coyotes are balking at a value that is worth more than twice that of a comparable young player. As a restricted free agent that is not yet arbitration-eligible, Rieder’s only leverage is to sign elsewhere, leading to the speculation that he could receive his desired contract from a KHL club for 2016-17. The Coyotes, who qualified the young RFA, would continue to hold onto his NHL rights, but would definitely feel the loss of a crucial cog in their rebuilding team. Likewise, Rieder may get the money he wants, but will be playing outside the world’s best hockey league and would still be Coyotes property should he return. Rieder departing the desert to go overseas does not really solve any problems. While this conclusion seems very likely, it is far from mutually beneficial.
In other Arizona news:
- Rieder is not the only RFA that the Coyotes still have to worry about, as defenseman Michael Stone is one of just three remaining unsettled arbitration cases league-wide, and is scheduled to go in front of the arbitrator on August 4th. Stone’s case is a tough one, as he scored a career high 36 points last season, only one point less than new teammate Alex Goligoski, who the Coyotes signed to a long-term deal worth nearly $5.5MM per year, but is still developing his defensive game. Add in that he suffered a serious knee injury which he is currently rehabbing from, and a fair market value is tough to nail down. While the figures submitted to the arbitrator by both sides have not yet surfaced, expect Stone to ask for a comparable contract to Goligoski and expect the Coyotes to offer far less. Given that 22 of 25 scheduled salary arbitration cases have been settled prior to their deadlines, it seems likely that the two sides will agree to terms somewhere in the ballpark of $4-4.5MM per season on a short bridge deal.
- However, if arbitration does occur and the arbitrator awards Stone with a one or two year deal that the Coyotes are uncomfortable with, it is very likely that his name could hit the trade rumor mill. Arizona has more than enough cap space, but may not want to commit too much of their budget in the short-term to a defenseman coming off a serious injury. A right-shot, puck-moving defenseman who is just 26 years old would be very attractive to many teams, regardless of an injury. For the Coyotes though, they have depth on the right side of the blue line with fellow RFA Connor Murphy, Zbynek Michalek, and the recently signed Luke Schenn. Should the return for Stone be sufficient to new GM John Chayka, Stone’s arbitration case may just end up shipping him out of town.
- As AZCentral’s Sarah McLellan reports, the Coyotes will play just one nationally televised game in 2016-17. That of course could increase, especially if the team makes the playoffs, but as of right now it stands as a disappointing total for an upstart team. One game is the minimum that each team must have covered nationally, but the Coyotes are not a team deserving of minimal coverage. Although Arizona may not be the biggest hockey market, it has been highlighted recently as the birthplace of #1 overall pick Auston Matthews and is now home to two pro teams, as the Coyotes moved their AHL franchise to Tuscon and re-named it the Roadrunners. The Coyotes have one of the top prospect systems in the NHL and should be a fun team to watch with a lot of great young talent. National audiences will unfortunately miss out on much of the action, but be sure to tune in to their November 1st tilt against the San Jose Sharks on NBC Sports.